Henna’s blog: "Get to Know Your: CSM"

Spinnaker

Eating at a restaurant and introducing yourself to the waiters as the food writer for a university newspaper is hilarious. You can see their eyes widen and hands fiddle with the tray in response. Then comes the awkward big smile that masks them worrying if they did anything wrong.

Eat, travel, write and repeat.

That sums up my job at the Spinnaker pretty precisely. Freshly out of high school, I remember walking into this office only last semester and introducing myself as a food writer. After writing for my school paper, I was eager to do the same on the Spinnaker.

I volunteered here for a while, and then I got that call.

“Henna, I’d like to offer you a spot on the newspaper as a staff writer,” said Spinnaker Editor in Chief Josh Gore over the phone.

I remember being ecstatic. Joining the Spinnaker took my foodie adventures to a whole new level. One of my first articles was reporting on a pizzeria called “Townies” in Fernandina Beach. I totally took the hour drive for good pizza.

I critiqued several restaurants around the city and wrote reviews. Currently, I’m trying to target good places close to campus, so students can have easy access to them.

When at a restaurant, I almost always ask my server what the best-selling dish is. I believe the best-selling dish represents the demand the restaurant draws from the dinners. If the dish is the priciest on the menu then the server’s a fluke. A $45 entrée can almost never be a bestseller. We like more for less in this country. And if I feel like the server lied, I have my first bad impression of the place.

I try to eat at a restaurant at least twice, with all courses, before I review it. Reading other food writers, books on culinary arts and really just enjoying the beauty of flavors, keeps me motivated. My next plan is to film restaurant reviews, somewhat like the ones on food network.

We have production night on Tuesdays at the Spinnaker office from 5 p.m. till whenever we get done. And boy, are the production nights crazy. We edit all articles three times, the final editing cycle includes layout editing, too. We get fed by grocery runs to Publix that usually include fried chicken, salsa, chips and hummus. Not too  bad: I approve.

Food writing isn’t all I do, though. I still get assigned regular news stories and other features (sports not so much, it’s an art of itself that I know really nothing about). I enjoy food writing more than any of the others.

Making connections becomes a very important part of this job. The more connections we make, the more news we can uncover. Then comes conducting interviews, staying on the ball with sources, having photographers follow you for article pictures — this is very close to the real deal.

Wednesday evening we have meetings to go over all the things we did right and wrong in the newest issue. John Timpe, adviser for the CSM, critiques our work, and we all grow as a team.

Spinnaker no longer seems like work to me. As cheesy (food pun) as this might sound, I love us. We report, edit and laugh together. And I couldn’t be happier with my start here at CSM.